Merging IT as a way of life

Though many IT chiefs are keen to have a merger under their belts, bringing disparate sets of technologies together is far from easy, particularly in this challenging economic climate.

Take Paul Coby, chief information officer (CIO) at British Airways as an example. He is now in the process of mobilising the technology strategy for the merger with Spanish carrier Iberia while having to live by the motto ‘doing even more with even less’.

Last week, the FT reported on a major management reshuffle at Porsche intended to address key strategic objectives, integration with Volkswagen being a key task.

Merging operations is crucial to the debt-ridden luxury car maker, which is half-owned by VW. That is because Porsche needs to gain closer access to technology and systems from its parent in order to achieve operational synergies and meet tough emissions and fuel economy regulations.

Generating cost and operational synergies is a must when merging two sets of technologies, but are there any rules of thumb for IT leaders overseeing such a mission? Recently I was talking to former BNP Paribas CIO Paul Camille Bentz about that subject and he gave me a few soundbites.

Bentz – who handled other technology mergers at firms including French insurance giant AGF Group and is now a consultant at supplier Cast Software – said that CIOs in merger situations need to follow a very strict methodology and can’t do it all themselves, ‘unless they have been doing mergers as a way of life’.

Some of his top tips to CIOs working on technology mergers include:

1. Know your figures: “If you don’t have good figures to support you through a merger, you are lost. This includes people, budgets, systems, contracts. I have been through that process and know that this is crucial so the office of the CIO can make educated decisions;

2. Select the right people: “You need to create a structure and place the right people in the right roles, otherwise you will have people working in ‘tribes’, and that can hamper productivity;

3. Avoid creating development plans immediately: “In most cases, you lose people when you announce your first nominations. You must have succession planning but avoid introducing it straight away”;

4. Provide the right tools: “You need to give your staff the appropriate means to do their job, including application intelligence and project methodologies.”

What are your ‘merger rules’? I would be interested in hearing the views of leaders who have worked on such projects.